There is no time of the year that does more damage to roads than what happens in the spring. With the cold of winter giving way to onset of spring/summer weather, the chance for bituminous road surfaces to get compromised is heightened.
As a result, Wright County annually places spring weight restrictions on several county roads.
“This time of year with the thawing that takes place, our roads are at their most vulnerable,” County Highway Engineer Virgil Hawkins said. “In order to protect these roads, we place annual load restrictions when the roads are at their most vulnerable.”
Hawkins presented the county board with a map of which roads will have restrictions placed upon them and sought permission to make the call when the restrictions can be implemented.
Over the last seven years, the date in which the load restrictions have been imposed has been consistent – all falling between March 6 and March 16 – and typically are kept in place for eight weeks.
Hawkins said the biggest concern in the spring isn’t quickly arriving warm temperatures, it’s a significant rain storm.
“When you get a heavy rain in the spring, it gets into the ground and gets the frost to bubble out much quicker than a day or two or 60 or even 70-degree weather,” Hawkins said. “That’s why we leave the starting date open-ended. We have a good handle of where the frost is at because they keep that data at the MnRoad facility on I-94. When we get the word, we can move pretty quickly to get the roads posted and the restrictions in place – usually within about 48 hours of making the decision.”
The board unanimously approved the spring load restriction map and authorized Hawkins to select when the restrictions will take place.
In other items on the Feb. 26 agenda, the board:
•Received an annual update from the Central Minnesota Jobs and Training Service. As part of the presentation, the board was presented with demographic information that shows that Wright County bucks the statewide trend for the age of its residents. In Minnesota, 40 percent of the state’s population is age 45 or above. In Wright County, just 34 percent of the population is over the age of 45 and more than 25 percent of the population is under the age of 15 – more than 5 percent above the state average.
• Set the date for the county board of appeal and equalization, which allows county residents to appeal their property tax valuations. The date is scheduled to be held from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday, June 17. A second date of 11 a.m. Tuesday June 18 was set, but it was noted by County Assessor Greg Kramber that, in his 20 years with the county, the process has never needed to use the alternate date.
•Approved county highway maintenance agreements with six cities – Delano, Elk River, Maple Lake, Monticello, Montrose and Waverly.
• Presented a retirement plaque to Nancy Tallman, office manager in the court services department. Tallman has been an employee of the county for 23 years and has been the court services office manager since 1995. In 2010, she was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which slowly takes away a person’s sight.
• Approved the rezoning of 58 acres in Clearwater Township from agricultural/general to ag/residential. The approval came after the proposed change was approved by a 5-1 vote at the planning commission.
•Approved payment of $4,011 to the firm of Madden Galanter & Hansen for work done for the county in January for union contract negotiations.
• Authorized signatures on a contract with Xerox for the county’s tax software program. The contract runs through 2020.
• In a non-meeting related update, a mediation session was held between the county and the union representing the county’s human services employees. The previous week, the union had announced an intent to strike vote and, from reports from those who attended the Feb. 25 meeting, the county’s offer that was put on the table varied very little from the previous offers, which included no pay increase for 2012 and 2013 and a 1 percent increase in 2014. Union members will vote March 19-20 to either approve the county’s offer or to move forward with a strike vote.
Freelancer John Holler covers government and the Wright County Board of Commissioners.